Ashlyn is an old dog at a shelter in North Carolina – and she really isn’t feeling well. She has lost a lot of weight and she has a sarcoma – a cancerous tumor under the skin. However, it was not too late for her to have a lucky break.
When the folks at the New England Humane Society (NEHS) discovered someone had the perfect home for Ashlyn to live out the last few weeks of her life, she just needed a way to get there. So Paul Steklenski, founder of the Foundation for Flying Feathers (FFAR), decided to get her on his plane.
As she flew the plane with Ashlyn in the seat next to her, Steklenski began to think with emotion that this could be her last trip anywhere. At the start of the two-hour trip, Ashlyn hesitated a bit. “She was starting to get a little aloof,” says Steklenski. “Then she’ll open up a little bit, and she’ll come closer.”
The dog biscuits he feeds her have definitely helped her feel better. “Then she gave me one leg and then the other. Then she put her head on my lap, ‘For me, that was huge. Steklenski said.
“When I picked her up from the airport, her condition ruined me,” Tracy Lander, who has three dogs of her own and has fostered dogs for NEHS for two years, told The Dodo. “She lost 39 pounds – her ideal weight is between 65 and 70. She came to me with a sweater – when I took it off, I could see every single rib.”
Lander began feeding Ashlyn three times a day to regain the weight. She also gives her supplements to help her deal with her many health issues, from skin problems (which are attributed to chemical burns) to her tumors.
Soon, Ashlyn began to transform a bit. “She hangs around more,” says Lander. “She’s a great eater… and she’s very attached to me.”
Ashlyn even hugged Angel, one of Lander’s other dogs. And Xander, Lander’s mixed martial arts, also became interested in sticking with Ashlyn. Lander said: “He would come close to Ashlyn and start licking her. “He thinks he can heal people with his tongue.”
Ashlyn came to live with the Landers in January, and no one knows how much time she will have. Now that it’s April, they don’t think of her as a foster dog, but just as someone who reminds them to live in the present and appreciate each day – it’s always a good lesson anyway.
The day Ashlyn boarded Steklenski’s plane, no one imagined she would make such huge strides. She went from being an exhausted shelter dog to being part of a loving family – and that’s exactly why Steklenski does what he does.
Steklenski added: “I never imagined finding something so satisfying, so rewarding that it would overshadow most of my time on this Earth.
Steklenski decided to fly as a hobby in 2013, when he happened to adopt a dog. These were unrelated at the time – but soon they became inextricably linked.